The United States Agency for International Development says there is chance that the percentage of Gross Domestic Product GDP afforded by Information and Communications Technologies ICT’s will outweigh that which is afforded by agriculture and other sectors in Zambia and other sub-saharan countries.
USAID Center for Digital Development Director Christopher Burns told News Diggers in an interview that Zambia could thus increase its Gross Domestic Product GDP by employing ICT’s in key sectors such as agriculture.
“From my perspective I would say Zambia is actually a promising place in terms of embracing ICTs as compared to its regional neighbours and across Sub-saharan Africa. One of the starting points that we look at from USAID but also from across is what is the level of unique subscribers in a country. so, the mobile penetration, the number of unique mobile subscribers, one person one sim card and that really speaks to the level of mobile and digital penetration. for Zambia I believe its higher than most countries in the region which I believe is an incredible starting point. I would also point to the engagement of digital financial services in Zambia and the role they play in driving financial inclusion which we see as main pathway out of poverty, which literally the most underserved can tap into. Not just mobile money for transaction, but the broad array of digital financial services which facilitates savings to offer credit scoring or access to insurance products,” Burns said.
He expressed shock that the agricultural sector was still the leading employer of people in Zambia despite an increase in ICTs across the country.
“Particularly in agro business and agricultural world, we see the penetration of digital financial services across Zambia as carrying a very positive effect on the most undeserved and most generally how people communicate and do business. It has the potential to increase your GDP. So, I have my colleague who actually say let’s be looking to Zambia as a guiding light for how we do employ digital tools in particular in our development work. There is a chance that the percentage of GDP afforded by ICT’s will outweigh that which is afforded by agriculture yet in an number of countries here in Africa, agriculture continues to be a leading employer of people. At some point you are actually going to see them cross over one another. This is to say that if agriculture would continue to be a huge GDP driver, and a huge employer of people and a huge way letting opportunities and economic potential, then you have to start incorporating digital and ICT technologies into it in order to stay relevant and in order to stay successful,” Burns said.
“In 2013, 17 percent of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) in Kenya was driven by Information and Communication Technologies, which is an incredible optic. In that same year 25 per cent of the GDP in Kenya was driven by agriculture. The sector that was the biggest employer in all of Kenya. And that GDP percentage had been growing constantly over the number of years. Now we are not at a point where those percentages are being tracked on a yearly basis for each country which I argue that they should be.”
He stressed the need for an increase around incorporation and integration of proven widely available digital technologies that citizens could use to improve their communities and the world they live in.
“In every case regardless of geography, demographics or development problems being addressed or sector, there are three things that are going on; there are some level of financial transaction, there are some level of data collection and there are some level of information dissemination. It doesn’t matter what you are doing or where you are doing it from there is some level of at least those three components. So, I would say to our partners in non-profit world, in government world, in international communities, are we dealing with these three things as well as we could? My guess is the answer is going to be no! at least in one of those areas but probably not in all three,” said Burns.
“So, the question after that is if we aren’t doing those three financial transactions, data collection information and dissemination as well as we could, how can we do it as well as we can in order to meet our development objectives and increase impact? And probably a good part of that answer would be around incorporation and integration of proven widely available digital technologies that will allow us to do individually those three pieces together and we can go one step further those three pieces in an integrated action to benefit the communities where we work.”